Many parents adopt a strict parenting style believing that being strict is in the best interest of their children. However, the underlying reasons for their motivations are often more complex.
- What are strict parents?
- Psychological inflexibility
- Need for control
- Emotional instability
- What do I do if my parents are too strict?
- Why are my parents so controlling?
- Why are my parents so strict about grades?
- Why are my parents so strict about what I wear?
- Why are my parents so strict about dating?
What are strict parents?
Strict parents set high standards and demands for their children. Strict parents who are demanding yet also warm and responsive are authoritative parents. On the other hand, strict, demanding, cold, and harsh parents are authoritarian parents.
Most strict parents who create unbearable environments for their children are authoritarian parents.
Some parents adopt a strict parenting style because they genuinely believe doing this is in their child’s best interest. But other factors may also contribute to this parenting style.
Below are some key factors that shape strict parents’ rigid beliefs and practices.
Many strict parents exhibit psychological inflexibility. Once they have decided a particular practice is best for their child, they resist considering alternative viewpoints, even in the face of contradictory evidence.
For instance, parents who employ spanking as a disciplinary measure may continue to advocate for its effectiveness despite substantial scientific evidence indicating its harmful effects or the availability of more effective alternatives.
This cognitive inflexibility is likely passed from the previous generation because strict parents tend to have strict upbringing themselves.1
Research has found that strict parents tend to have less agreeable personalities. They are less likely to be open-minded about perspectives that diverge from their own beliefs.2
The lack of openness and flexibility is a key reason children find it challenging to negotiate or reason with their parents regarding stringent rules or parenting methods.
Strict parents tend to be emotionally unstable. They are prone to subjective distress, dissatisfaction, and feelings of inadequacy.
Such parents are also more sensitive and perceive more threats in the world, e.g., limited job prospects due to poor academic performance, safety risks associated with community violence, etc.5
They may exert strict control over their children to compensate for those feelings.
Strict parenting often succeeds in forcing short-term obedience from children. The strict parent’s mistaken belief that children cannot self-regulate is reinforced when the child complies to avoid punishment. Parents’ emotional instability also entrenches their reliance on rigid rules and harshness.
Need for control
Strict parents tend to have a strong desire for control over their children’s behavior. Research shows they have an external locus of control, which means they believe external forces, rather than the child’s internal discipline, dictate the child’s behavior. Therefore, children require external regulation to behave appropriately. This outlook fuels an intense desire for control using stringent rules and harsh punishment.3
Studies have also found that while strict parents attribute positive child behaviors to external causes, they view negative child behaviors as stemming from the child’s innate difficult temperament. The bad behavior cannot be controlled without authoritarian methods.
Essentially, strict parents are “developmental pessimists.”4
What do I do if my parents are too strict?
Young children with strict parents often feel powerless to change their parents’ entrenched perspectives and the strong need for control. However, understanding the reasons behind this parenting approach can offer some strategies for improving their lives and the family dynamic.
If you are a young child with strict parents, check out this article: How to Deal With Strict Parents as a Teenager
Adult children have more leverage when dealing with strict parents due to financial independence.
If you are an adult child with strict parents, see this article: Authoritarian Parenting: Effects & 7 Tips To Recover
Why are my parents so controlling?
Many parents are controlling because they feel insecure and threatened.
The desire for control stems from their insecurity. Research shows that parents are more controlling when they perceive more threats to their children or to themselves.
These threats could be external, such as financial hardship, difficult teenage behavior, or other stressful life events. Threats could also be internal pressure, such as worrying about children’s low school achievement or anxiety over being judged as an inadequate parent.
Why are my parents so strict about grades?
Your parents are so strict about grades probably because they are concerned about your future success, your motivation, their own self-worth, or their childhood experiences.
Future success – Some parents equate good grades with future success. The underlying belief is that high academic achievement provides better career opportunities, financial stability, and well-being. For these parents, grades become more than just numbers; they are seen as indicators of your potential.
Motivation through strictness – Some parents are rigid about grades because they hope it will motivate children to achieve more. In their minds, strict standards will push you to succeed now and in the future.
Parent’s self-worth – Other parents have their self-worth tied up in their children’s academic performance. Seeing their child struggle in school hurts their pride. It makes them feel like failures as if low grades mean they didn’t do their job as parents. These parents may feel judged by their community or social circle based on their children’s poor academic performance.
Perpetuating past pressure – In some cases, parents may have faced academic pressures growing up and are perpetuating a cycle they experienced.
Overcorrecting – Some parents experience a lack of pressure during their upbringing, which they believe has led to their underachievement. Therefore, they take a different approach with their children, enforcing higher standards to ensure their success.
Why are my parents so strict about what I wear?
Your parents are strict about what you wear likely because they are concerned about family image, safety, peer influence, culture, your maturity, or personal insecurity.
Family image – One common reason is the desire to project a specific family image. Parents may feel that their child’s appearance reflects not only on the individual but also on the family as a whole and, by extension, on their effectiveness as parents.
Safety concern – Parents may believe certain types of clothing can attract unwanted attention or are inappropriate for specific situations, such as school or family events.
Caution about peer pressure – Parents may worry that what their child wears could impact social interactions, potentially leading to negative judgments or stereotyping from others. They may believe that conforming to certain dress norms will help their child fit in better with peers or authority figures, such as teachers or employers.
Different cultural values – Some cultures may have strict policies about covering up. Sometimes, parents may impose dress codes to align with religious beliefs with specific guidelines about modesty and appearance.
Instilling maturity – some parents may see clothing choices as an extension of a child’s attitude and behavior. They might think that a disciplined approach to appearance will instill a sense of responsibility and maturity.
Projecting insecurities – Some parents who felt unattractive or left out growing up overcompensate by controlling their child’s style.
Why are my parents so strict about dating?
Your parents are so strict about dating probably because of their concern over losing control, distraction, safety, protectiveness, values, your maturity, and their past experiences.
Discomfort with losing control – As you grow up, parents have to let go of authority little by little. Dating is a big step – strictness eases their transition.
Worries about distraction – Dating and relationships can consume time and focus. Parents may fear dating interfering with academics or other priorities.
Safety concerns – Dating opens the door to risky situations – bad influences, peer pressure, unsafe sex, and emotional hurt.
Protectiveness over their role – Parents can feel possessive, struggling to accept romantic partners replacing them as the most important person.
Concerns about values – Dating outside your family’s culture or religion brings apprehension that you’ll abandon values they find important.
Caution about maturity – Parents may feel you’re unprepared for the responsibilities and consequences of dating and relationships. They set limits to match your level of maturity.
Projecting from past hurt – If parents had painful relationship experiences, they might try to prevent that pain for you through restrictive rules.
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- 1.Williams KE, Ciarrochi J, Heaven PCL. Inflexible Parents, Inflexible Kids: A 6-Year Longitudinal Study of Parenting Style and the Development of Psychological Flexibility in Adolescents. J Youth Adolescence. Published online February 7, 2012:1053-1066. doi:10.1007/s10964-012-9744-0
- 2.Huver RME, Otten R, de Vries H, Engels RCME. Personality and parenting style in parents of adolescents. Journal of Adolescence. Published online August 28, 2009:395-402. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2009.07.012
- 3.Janssens JMAM. Authoritarian Child Rearing, Parental Locus of Control, and the Child’s Behaviour Style. International Journal of Behavioral Development. Published online September 1994:485-501. doi:10.1177/016502549401700306
- 4.Coplan RJ, Hastings PD, Lagacé-Séguin DG, Moulton CE. Authoritative and Authoritarian Mothers’ Parenting Goals, Attributions, and Emotions Across Different Childrearing Contexts. Parenting. Published online February 1, 2002:1-26. doi:10.1207/s15327922par0201_1
- 5.Gurland ST, Grolnick WS. Perceived Threat, Controlling Parenting, and Children’s Achievement Orientations. Motiv Emot. Published online June 2005:103-121. doi:10.1007/s11031-005-7956-2